2015 Essay Contest Honorable Mention, Senior Division
Aiden, 10th grade
Teacher: Ms. McFarlain
School: Soteria School | Charlotte, NC
1864-65: Bringing the War to a Close
The repercussions of the Civil War were tremendous. Even though the harsh, physical aspects of the war were put to rest on April 9, 1865, when General Lee surrendered peacefully to the Union, the stark reality is that the anger, fear, and uncertainty nurtured during this trial lasted decades until all of the political and emotional disputes were finally resolved. When a nation is put through the torment of brother against brother and state against state, cultural and spiritual healing are all too slow in coming. General William Tecumseh Sherman was steadfast in his certainty that “old and young, rich and poor, [should] feel the hard hand of war.” Under Sherman, vast swathes of land and villages were left to grovel in ruin. As deep as the physical taints left by this marring time were, the emotional struggle within the nation was even deeper. Bitterness lay strong in the south, caused largely because of resentment towards the expanding population of former slaves and a tension between them and the North. It is no wonder that these wounds lasted as long as they did.
Yet amid the adversity, hope and freedom were struggling to once again claim a foothold in America. Every former slave had been given his right to freedom, and a once oppressed people would quickly aspire to positions of momentous prestige. Edward Brooke, a senator, and approximately two-thousand other African Americans would reach seats in public office during Reconstruction. Something that should have never been taken away had been restored to an oppressed people: liberty. No longer would the chains of slavery cling to them. From every lip unconditional justice would be proclaimed; from every heart strength from toil would be sung. Committees such as the Freedman’s Bureau inspired these courageous men and women, taught them, and helped them to realize the difference that they could make upon America.
Lincoln had a mindset, a vision that this group of independent, sovereign states could be linked together with a will mightier than what hardship could dissolve. The Civil War helped to bring America this will, this inseparable bond of brotherhood. Through it, America was forged into a nation that was ready to forgive but slow to forget. Americans can look back on history and use it to aid in making choices for the future and in remembering the sacrifice that the soldiers in all of her wars took to maintain freedom. This is a privilege that has meant that the United States truly has become just that: united. Before the war, America was referred to as nations, separate states joined in a common cause; now we can proudly call ourselves a nation. Through division came unification, and out of the ashes that war had left, a beautiful nation was reconstructed. The times ahead would be unduly tough, filled with the challenges that all who seek a brighter future face. Thankfully, America held on to become one nation, to become a land of opportunity, a refuge to those who were told they could never soar, to become “One nation, under God, with Liberty and Justice for all.” She held on to become America.